We were at this year’s Simhastha Kumbh 2016 to ensure it’s a WASH success. A look at the Kumbh and our activities in it.
All photos: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan
The Simhastha Kumbh Mela, a religious gathering on the banks of the river Kshipra in the city of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh took place from 22 April to 21 May 2016. The Kumbh Mela, which happens once in 12 years, is one of the largest public gatherings in the world. Hindus believe that taking a dip during the Kumbh is very holy.
Given the huge influx of people over a relatively short period of time it was a challenge to ensure that safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is availed by all the visiting pilgrims.
A key concern was possible prevalence of open defecation around the areas where pilgrims will be staying in large numbers if the toilets provided were not sufficient to cater to the demand.
WaterAid India partnered with the Mela Organising Committee with the support of Ujjain Municipal Corporation and the Madhya Pradesh (MP) state government to ensure that WASH is a priority at the Simhastha 2016 through a range of interventions.
Thirteen balloons were floated near the toilet complexes to guide people to the nearest toilets during day and night.
Our stall at the Datt Akhara zone near the main bathing site was always bustling with WASH awareness activities and games.
It drew people in large numbers who were keen to know more about WASH.
We conducted games and screened movies to make people aware on why WASH matters.
Our display walls were installed at various strategic points in the mela areas to engage people and sensitise them on important issues of WASH and how to keep Simhastha Kumbh safe and healthy.
We did not miss the opportunity to sensitise women on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) through our canopy stalls.
Using our posters on menstruation taboos as talking points our team explained to women/adolescent girls about safe menstrual hygiene management.
On May 12 we launched the ‘Loo with a view’ toilets.
The Loo with a View toilets have a one-way mirror on the door. A person inside using the toilet can look outside, but to those outside, the door is simply a mirror.
The toilets were an instant hit and people queued up to use and experience them.
A street theatre group also performed short interactive skits at the different Mela sites over the period of the Simhastha to engage and inform the visiting pilgrims on issues of sanitation, hygiene and the link between WASH and health.
WaterAid India also set up a bio-digester toilet technology at the community toilet in the Dani Gate area in Ujjain.
Till now the community toilet was using septic tank technology and could overflow due to high usage. Since the toilet complex is very close to the river Kshipra, bio-digester toilet technology was felt to be the ideal option as the effluent is much cleaner.
The toilet contains 12 male and 8 female seats with a bio-digester in each section respectively. The technology will take care of all faecal sludge and keep the area clean and odour free. The toilet also has napkin vending machine and incinerators.
WaterAid India will continue to work in Ujjain and support the Municipal Corporation and government in making the city open defecation free by 2018.